The beginning of May is the green light to plant colorful annuals into pots and hanging baskets.
It might still be too chilly to plant heat lovers such as marigolds and coleus directly into the ground, but lobelia, pansies, petunias, Dusty Miller and many other annuals can be planted now.
All perennials, hardy herbs and trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers growing in containers at a nursery or garden center will transplant easily into the ground this month.
Picky about petunias – The Wave, Supertunias and Calibrachoas.
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There have been big improvements to the petunia world from groundcover petunias (Wave petunias), intense colors of the Supertunias and the compact Superbells Calibrachoas from Proven Winners.
So what’s the difference between these three?
Wave Petunias are faster growing.
Wave petunias create oceans of blooms and are best as groundcovers or as bold borders of color edging a lawn or wide bed. This aggressive growing petunia comes in many colors, from bright pink to pale purple, and there are more than 50 cultivars or varieties.
You can use this far-reaching petunia to create large hanging baskets, but use a bigger-than-average container (at least 18 inches deep) and remember to water daily and fertilize all summer. Be prepared to cut the explosion of growth around the first of August to give the plant a second wind for the autumn season.
There are also subgroups of Wave petunias such as Shock Wave in brighter colors and Easy Wave with a more mounding than spreading habit. All have superior resistance to our summer rain storms.
Tip: Wave petunias will drown out other annual plants in a container or in the ground. They do best as solo artists but their aggressive nature means they also will crowd out most weeds.
This petunia is weather-resistant and does not need deadheading to keep it in flower. Like all petunias, the Wave petunia prefers at least six hours of sun a day and blooms best in fertile soil. Feed often.
Supertunias are champions from Proven Winners.
Supertunias were first introduced in 2006 and new color combos and cultivars are added each year. There are now more than 30 different types of Supertunias. All are robust growers that not only do well in our rainy climate but also tolerate great heat.
Grow Supertunias in a west- or south-facing hot spot. They won’t mind days over 90 degrees or nights of summer rainstorms. Supertunias do not require deadheading to keep them tidy.
Supertunias do not grow as large as the Wave petunias, so they are a better choice for containers and mixed hanging baskets as they play well with others.
The duel colors make these petunias the darling of designers and this year Supertunia Black Cherry will dazzle your dreams of more dark drama with a unique burgundy color accented with a black throat.
Tip: Supertunia Black Cherry is more upright than a lot of Supertunias, so use it in the back of a mixed planting or as the central “thriller” plant in the middle of a pot.
Superbells Calibrachoa — compact mini petunias.
The smaller flowers and more compact growth make these darling summer bloomers perfect for mixed containers and window boxes because they come in such a range of cheerful colors.
My personal favorite is the cheery Superbell Calibrachoa Lemon Slice with bright yellow and white striped petals. The sunny color lights up any porch or patio planting and the two-color combo means this plant also would look great going solo in a dark blue or even a deep black container.
My Lemon Slice flowered all summer until frost in partial shade. But like all members of the petunia family, Calibrachoas love the sun.
Tip: Calibrachoas are sensitive to root rot and need perfect drainage. If your plants look wilted but the soil is damp, move them out of the rain and add perlite to the potting soil.
They grow best if you allow the top inch of soil to become dry before adding water. For this reason in our unique Western Washington climate, grow Calibrachoas in pots or raised beds not in the ground.
Calibrachoas also hate our naturally acid soil, as it prevents them from absorbing iron. Potting soil is best for these plants. Fertilize all summer. If the plants look tired in August, give them a haircut and you’ll see fresh new growth.
Marianne Binetti will give a talk at noon Wednesday (May 9) at Windmill Gardens, 16009 60th St. E., Sumner, on plants that pack a punch, plants for cutting gardens and new plants for containers that give the landscape summer long color. Go to www.windmillgarden.com or phone 253-863-5843 to register.